Three-time world cycling champion Peter Sagan will use the Tour Down Under to launch his 2019 season and isn't ruling out a stage win or two.
Sagan jetted into Adelaide on Friday, ready for a full week of training before the tour starts on January 13.
The BORA-hansgrohe team leader says this year's race will be harder with the final stage finishing on the top of Willunga Hill, instead of the usual inner-city street circuit.
"That's going to be the decisive stage, I think," he said.
"I'm here mostly for training, but if I can catch a stage like last year, then I'm going to be happy. But it's not easy."
Sagan won stage four in last year's race and also took the sprinter's jersey.
One of his main rivals for stage honours in this year's tour, Deceuninck–Quick-Step's Elia Viviani arrived on the same flight and is also looking to repeat his efforts from 2018, both in Adelaide and for the rest of the year.
"We want to try to copy last season because it was an amazing one for me," he said.
"A good start in Australia with one stage win in the Tour Down Under, but all the team had an amazing year."
After Adelaide, Viviani plans to target the early season classics in Europe before setting his sights on more stage wins in the grand tours.
"The big classics are a goal of the season and probably also the Tour de France is the next step," he said.
"We will see what 2019 offers to us. I think we've spent a good winter and we're ready to smash it again."
Porte set for TDU in new Trek Segafredo livery
Former winner Richie Porte will make his debut in Trek-Segafredo colours at the 2019 Santos Tour Down Under.
The Australian climber will be joined by Will Clarke (AUS), Koen de Kort (NED), Ryan Mullen (IRE), Jarlinson Pantano (COL), Kiel Reijnen (USA) and Peter Stentina (USA) in the season-opening UCI WorldTour event.
It sets Porte up for an unprecedented sixth consecutive conquering of Australia’s most iconic climb – Willunga Hill – as he again targets the general classification.
The Tasmanian finished equal on time with eventual winner Daryl Impey last year, but his South African rival was awarded the Santos Ochre Leader’s Jersey on countback after Stage 5 and retained it on the final day.
“The Tour Down Under is always a goal for me in the start of the season and it’s a joy to race in Adelaide every January,” Porte said.
“Obviously, riding my first race with Trek-Segafredo in Australia, I will be extra motivated to start with a good showing on GC and hope to continue the Willunga success.
“There is to be a very strong bunch of GC favourites racing who want to win the race so I know I’ll need to be on top of my game and I will be.”
Cipollini pulls out of Legends dinner
Italian cycling legend Mario Cipollini was to be a special guest at this month's Tour Down Under in Adelaide but has pulled out citing personal reasons.
The Tour had announced in November that Cipollini would be a special guest of the race.
Cipollini was to speak at the Tour dinner and also to take part in the event's community ride.
But the Tour has announced that Cipollini will not appear because of personal reasons.
Fellow Italian sprinter Elia Viviani, who is racing in the January 13-20 Tour, and Australian cycling stars Mat Hayman and Amanda Spratt will be the special guests at the Legends' Night Dinner.
Cipollini, 51, is one of cycling's all-time great competitors, winning the 2002 world road title as well as 12 Tour de France stages.
He is equally well-known because of his flamboyant personality and one of his nicknames is The Lion King.
In November, a report in the Italian media said Cipollini would face trial later this year for an alleged assault.
Previous guests of the Tour Down Under have included cycling luminaries such as Eddy Merckx, Chris Hoy, Greg LeMond, Miguel Indurain and Bernard Hinault.